BY CHRIS FREAN
This is a book which will hopefully alert the modern football community to what the game used to be like. Or following it. It’s a little compendium (little in that it is A5) of 140 pages’ worth of paraphernalia which should, you’d have thought, be a best seller in the Chelsea club shop, assuming it is deemed appropriate.
And it should be. For a mere £12.99 you get page after page of approximately alphabetically arranged minutiae stretching over several decades but focussing heavily on the 70s. One of the authors is the Leicester fanzine chap Gary Silke – he’s been around the scene since the late 80s, and still seems to be out there. His fanzine, The Fox, had the best cartoonist.
So with Silke, you can expect a kind of late 80s approach. The other author, Derek Hammond, is a new name to me. But a quick Google of him shows up that he is a serial author of this sort of thing, having brought out Got, Not Got’s for several clubs now, with more on the way. Publishers are the company Pitch, of Durrington – the go-to chaps, it seems to me, or at least they were for my mate James Moor and his book on Partizan Belgrade.
No sign that Got, Not Got want to do a Brighton one, however. Not that I’d have stuff to offer so that wasn’t a subtle lobby sneaking in there.
The book’s USP is that it brings together all the things most of us have probably done away with, and are now regretting it years later because it could have been worth a packet on eBay. Silke and Hammond have brought together the sort of things the likes of me threw away, lost or swapped. Take page 22 for example: there’s The Wonderful World of Soccer Stars, and I remember collecting those, but where is the album now? In a landfill somewhere, I suppose. They’ve dug up the old Shoot League Ladders. I had those. They’ve found that Shoot with Wilkins dressed as Father Christmas on the cover. I had that. They’ve found the Esso 1970 coins. I had some of those. And the Hartley’s Jam lids. They’ve also got the old Bartholomew’s Football Map. Yes, had that too.
It’s also a bit of a historical document as you find pictures of Stamford Bridge from the bad old days, when away supporters like me would have to run the gauntlet of the late 80s/Bates era types who made visiting such a pleasure. But having been in recent years, I know which I prefer. A proper ground with a proper atmosphere or a visit to a rather fake arena where everyone is given a plastic flag or you wonder when the next Asian tourist will stand up, back to the pitch, and pose for a selfie, or a big flag will be dragged over your head and block your view of the pitch.
A short list of acknowledgements records the sources for Silke and Hammond’s opus – just when I was wondering if this was from their own attics. Even so, having sourced it, this must have taken a fair slog to compile. A Mr. Rodney George seems to have been responsible for supplying a fair bit of the material. Well done him, I hope he gets a % of the £12.99. I see that the authors have done one of these books before – Hammond’s Goodreads page suggests he has more in his pipeline. Prior to this they’ve done a book of old snaps of grounds. As most fanzines from the 80s moved on or the authors got sidetracked into normal life, this is the sort of book which fills gaps.
It would though be interesting to know just how many of these sell, or how many they print, as a kind of social study on modern football – do the Sky watchers, the in-match-betting lads, the buyers of half-and-half scarves, do they realise there is all this history out there? Do the trendy buffoons of today care for this sort of thing? If not, why not? I think they should. This little book has hardly a page without something to catch the attention. With a little proactive PR work this sort of thing could go viral in Japan…maybe it already has.